The Basics of A Trust Administration – What You Need To Know

elder law trusts nj

A trust administration happens when any settlor passes away or becomes incapacitated, and since there was a living trust involved, there would be a trust administration. A living trust contains language that spells out what happens when a settlor becomes incapacitated or when one or both of the settlers have died. That language requires specific actions by the backup trustees, sometimes the surviving spouse, in the case of marriage. 

The administration part is when the attorney works with a surviving spouse or the backup trustees to follow the directions written in that trust and make sure the trustee follows the law’s requirements. For example, if someone has died and they have a living trust the assets that were in that individual’s trust must be given to the next in line beneficiaries. Or in the case of a married couple on the first death, family trust assets must be allocated or given to a sub-trust for the use of the surviving spouse.

 A trust administration acquires an experienced attorney in this critical time; there are state, federal and county guidelines and rules that must be followed to save time and money. Often some deeds and forms are time-sensitive, and delay can cause serious problems, unnecessary expenses or missed tax savings opportunities. Plus, the surviving spouse or other beneficiaries want assurances that they will receive what they are supposed to receive in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner.

What is the first step?

The first step usually involves the attorney reviewing and explaining the trust to the backup trustees or surviving spouse as the case may be. This is true whether there’s an incapacity of a settler or a settler has passed away, then the attorney outlines the plan of action based upon the trust language. The surviving spouse or backup trustee must understand the process so they can make informed decisions, think of all this like a team each person working toward the same goal.

What does the surviving spouse or backup trustee usually need to bring to the first trust administration meeting with the attorney?

Typically, let’s use the death of a spouse as an example, the surviving spouse would bring in the original trust plan, about four or five death certificates, and a list of the future beneficiaries’ names, addresses and contact numbers as well. It’s also a time saver if the backup trustee is a surviving spouse and has a list of trust assets and the deeds or statements that go with each trust asset.

SCC legal is an estate planning attorney in New Jersey and our offices can go through this process with you step-by-step. We clearly outline the goals and duties to make sure everything is clear and understandable so the trust administration is wrapped up in a timely, efficient, and economical manner. We can also prepare additional estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy/Medical Directive, Power of Attorney documents and trusts. For more compassionate legal guidance and a free consultation, please contact us or visit our website at

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